Destroyer of Worlds
Travelling Internationally with Bike
Hey, I read some on this, but it seems unclear to me about some stuff. Seems many just get a free box from their LBS (which I can do), disassemble the bike (which I can do), and take it as a second checked item, usually paying maybe $80 each way. My problem with this is: what do I do once I'm in Frankfurt with a backpack (carry on), suitcase, and a big box with a bike in it? I have to somehow get from the airport to a train that'll take me to Freiburg, and then from that station I need to find a place to stay. I was recommended to make my luggage so that I can solo carry it up a flight of stairs, and I don't see any way of doing that with a bike, so what do you all recommend? My one guess was that I could just wait till I get to Germany and have a permanent address before shipping my bike there. I'm going for study abroad so I'll be living in a sort of dorm, so it's really not necessary that my bike gets there too soon. Any thoughts on difficulty of traveling with a bike and costs of shipping internationally (for instance I heard it may be more expensive to ship it back to America)?
Formerly Known as Newbie
I'm assuming you're flying to Frankfurt am Main (FRA) and not to Frankfurt-Hahn (HHN), as there's no train connection to the latter?
In Frankfurt am Main airport, train station is right next to Terminal 1. You might be able to take everything that far (with trolly or such), albeit with some difficulty. You have checked with the Deutsche Bahn web site that you can take bike on the train you plan to catch? If so, then you should be set up all the way to Freiburg. The real trouble starts there.
I don't see a way for you to carry all that stuff with you at once without a trolly. Can you replace the suitcase with panniers? If not, is there a place in Freiburg train station where you can leave your bike for storage, overnight if needed? Or, would buying a bike in Germany be out of the question? That would guarantee your bike is street legal (dynamo / dynohub + lights), although I don't know if those rules are strictly enforced.
When I have traveled back and forth across the Atlantic with a bike in tow; I ship ahead a certain amount of clothing , etc. Just carry the basics in your panniers. It will be much cheaper than shipping a whole bike across the Atlantic. Once you land in Frankurt you will only be carrying the basics. YOu are now a touring cyclists, so behave accordingly.
The last two times that I've flown to Europe I've put the bike on the plane unboxed, as my second piece of checked baggage. I had panniers, etc. in a duffel bag that I was able to carry in one hand, and after I straightened the handlebars it was pretty easy to wheel it along with the other hand. I use one pannier as my carry on bag, and put it on the bike's rack when I'm dragging everything through airports and railroad stations. Most airports have elevators if you look around, and most airports and train stations have luggage trolleys that you can rent or borrow.
If you can afford it, there are hardshell bike cases that do a better job of protecting the bike than a cardboard box. Lots of hardshell bike cases have wheels to make dragging the case around easier. There's a theory that an unboxed bike is safer than a bike in a cardboard box, because baggage handlers see a fragile object deserving of some care instead of just a hunk of cardboard.
German railroads are quite bike friendly, but I would still check the Deutsche Bahn website to verify that the train you're taking accepts bikes.
Careful with the unboxed bikes. The baggage handlers can be brutal. The problem with the hard case, as much as i like them. What do you do with them once you arrive. / The time, the airline was to provide me with a bike box in Nice. It turned out to be a huge plastic baggie. When I got home. The handlebars were warped. Spokes destroyed, Rims bent. My next trip, I had a bike box before I got to the airport. Take a disposable box. Pack about the bike. I used sleeping bags to protect the bike. . Worked well. Tape down accessories, because the TSA will likely loose them. Once when we arrived at Orly. We put the assembled bikes on a shuttle. And after that , we were bike tourists.
I'm made of earth!
If you are bringing a bike just to get around town, I recommend picking up a bike from a flea market when you get to Freiburg.
Originally Posted by kyledr
If you are bringing your bike because you want to do lots of touring during your stay, that's another matter. How long will you be staying?
I'm made of earth!
If I were you, I would assemble my bike at the airport. Then I would wear the backpack, roll the suitcase with my left hand and roll my bike with my right hand.
Why are you taking a suitcase? As markf mentioned, a duffel bag works well. Put your panniers, helmet, etc. inside a duffel bag for your 2nd piece of luggage. When you arrive, put the bike together, attach the panniers to your bike, and roll up the duffel bag and stick it inside the panniers.
Are you going there to tour, or just traveling with a bike along? It definitely makes a difference.
Destroyer of Worlds
It's both. I'll be a student with a bike for the semester, and then I have a month of free time afterwards to tour, so I'd like to bring my bike. If it's fairly easy to find well-priced, used touring bikes in Germany, I'd consider going without the bike and just buying one. But I have put some work into this current bike, and I'm satisfied that it'll be reliable.
Yes this is FRA. I should have made it more clear that I'm considering somewhat seriously just shipping the bike. I can wait until I have a permanent address to get the bike because I'm not in a huge rush to get it. However if the shipping cost was over $100 I'd definitely reconsider the shipping idea.
Last edited by kyledr; 02-25-08 at 12:28 PM.
The air-train connection is really, really easy (but a bit of a hike through the big terminal).
Originally Posted by Juha
Probably best to assemble your bike at the airport and travel with it on the train. If you have a backpack rather than a suitcase, you can push the bike while wearing the backpack (you wouldn't want to ride too far at the other end, but for a short trip it is fine). (Otherwise panniers in a fold-away duffle bag to keep them together.) You're flying from the US so you get some massive baggage allowance, not the standard international 1 piece / 20 kg.
The ICE trains don't have great bike transport options, but the slower (and cheaper) trains are simply awesome - there are carriages with multiple bike racks, and travelling with a bike is easy and commonplace. There is a booking office at the entrance to the train terminal on the top level (turn left as you enter from the airport). Use them rather than the ticket machines, they can advise you on the different train types, ticket types, etc.
I'm guessing at the Freiburg end you'd cycle to your accommodation, but I've never been there. Most of the main stations (Hauptbahnhoff) have luggage/bike escalators next to stairs so it's pretty easy to get out of a station even with a bike and panniers/backpack (backpack easier due to clearance issues with panniers). You can't take a bike on a bus or a tram.
Bike touring is pretty popular in Germany and so is commuting by bike. The standard sort of bike seems to be a 700c hybrid with front suspension, but there is a big range. You might want to bring your own bike over, but I wouldn't buy any other bike stuff for the trip, you can find anything you need.
Standard bike cardboard box is much larger than what you can pack the bike down to with a little further disasembly. Remove the fork. Dismount the rear derraileur from the frame, and tape it out of the way to the frame (no need to break the chain or disconect the cable, just unscrew the allen bolt that conects to the frame), this will protect the deraileur and the drop outs. You might want to pop the cranks off as well for further size reduction and to protect the chain wheel. Put a separator on the front fork (comes with the bike box if you get a box with all the packing pieces inside). Wrap the frame to protect the paint (styrofoam frame wrap pieces also come with new packed bikes). Remove hub skewers and seat post. Tie or tape everything together in the smallest package possible. Place inside the box, and then reduce the box to the size of the package. You will be able to cut down up to a foot of lenth and maybe 6" of height from the box. You have a good chance of not paying airline surcharge (American did nor charge me a month ago), and have a more manouverable package when you arrive with less chance of damage.
Long Distance Cyclist
Hmmm ... I may have to go into a bit more detail about travelling internationally with my bicycle in my touring stories.
But I will say this now:
First: Go to your airline's website and READ all the information they have regarding bicycles. Read it a second time to make sure you really understand everything about weights and sizes and so on. If you do not do this, you could be hit with some very expensive charges.
Second: Arrive at the airport very early.
Third: Smile and be the most friendly person on earth ....... all the way through the whole process. Even when you've been flying and waiting in waiting rooms for 30 hours and you're dead tired and only want to sleep. It really helps the process flow more smoothly, and less expensively.
This is the THE most valuable piece of advice. In fact, if there is a lawyer in line ahead of you and he/she starts ripping the service person a new one then you are in luck. The lawyer will likely get nothing and you will get everything he/she would have got (if he/she had been reasonable) and more.
Originally Posted by Machka
My family of three came back from France over the Atlantic on international first class one time (we had paid for discounted coach) by being nothing other than good-humored and understanding in very difficult circumstances which the airline then more than made up to us.